Month: April 2014

If I Could Read It Again (Part 2)

On Monday I askedIf you could read one book again for the first time, what would it be and why?

Check out those answers here! I think this is an incredibly interesting topic. I think we are impacted by all (or at least most) of the books we read, but there are some that just stick with us.

Here are some more answers to that question.  Be sure to leave your own answers below!

If you could read one book again for the first time, what would it be and why?

incoldbloodAndrew: I don’t often return to the books I love, but I wish I could read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood all over again. Its mythic fact-weaving and cinematic movements made it one of the most supremely detailed page-turners I’ve ever read. Capote’s signature loquaciousness assumes a plainspoken drive that reflects the landscapes of Holcomb County, sharpening his scenes with slow-burning poise. The quiet of countrified America is asserted in its pages, yet danger is still felt everywhere.

Jump-cuts, flashbacks, and the balancing act between the inner and outer monologues of its cast almost seem ornamental in their perfect structure. But no pretense slows In Cold Blood down, making it easy to lose oneself in appreciation of its story and structure both as a whole and for their own distinct merits. As an aspiring journalist and almost-creative writer, the revelations and counteracting mysteries of In Cold Blood had almost too much to teach me about the necessity of reportage, restraint, and how to make the most of creative risks. The intuition that forms the questions we ask must be present in the conclusions we draft and commit to print.

tomorrowwhenthewarKim: One of my all-time favorite series is by Australian author John Marsden, Tomorrow, When The War Began. I LOVE a good long series. And while there is no feeling like being so into a book that you end up forgoing all other responsibilities/activities, I wouldn’t ever want to relive the devastation I felt after finishing something like Divergent. I didn’t recover well from that one…

More than just being a good read though, the Tomorrow series has a group of teenagers dealing with and contemplating a lot of the things I was dealing with an contemplating – but [spoiler] in the middle of a guerrilla warfare zone. It was the first time I let myself think, suburban bliss or occupied outback, there will always be something more important than whatever I’m struggling with, but that doesn’t make my struggles unimportant. An interesting revelation, one that I wouldn’t mind experiencing for the first time again.

I also read the first book the summer before starting 10th grade, as a super naive high schooler. I couldn’t do some of the things I do now, like anticipate imperfect endings, or predict quintessential plot points. I sorta miss that naive mindset, it made literally everything a great big surprise.

inkheartChristine: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – I first encountered Inkheart as an audiobook in middle school. I wonder if I would have had a different experience if I read a hard copy first. People focus on different details as they read so the speaker may have stressed different words or concentrated on different phrasing than I would have by reading it. I also mentally pronounce certain names the way they were said by the British speaker. “DUSTfinger,” “SILva-tongue.”

I read Inkheart right in the middle of my YA novel frenzy phase so it holds a lot of emotion and meaning for me. I wonder if the book would have the same emotional impact if I read it now. I love well-written adventures with a lot of unexpected creativity so I would enjoy reading Inkheart for the first time again!

alchemistAlyson: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. I read The Alchemist during the summer after I graduated high school. I was a doe-eyed seventeen-year-old pushed out of high school far too soon like some sort of guinea pig. Skipping a grade is not something I recommend to the innocent and naive. When you read certain books I feel that they forever change who you are, and others just reveal a part of you that was always present but was never uncovered (sort of like gene expression, or just ignore my science nerd analogies). This prompt response is seemingly rambling on, but in a way I feel that’s what happens in The Alchemist.  Santiago goes on this grand adventure in pursuit of his own Personal Legend and one event leads to another and leads to another and Santiago debates retiring his pursuit to go back home; he has lost his way. Seventeen-year-old me, too, had hoped to pursue my own grand Personal Legend somewhere deep in the Egyptian Pyramids, but The Alchemist taught me something else: to listen to the Soul of the World, and listen to your own soul. Recently I’ve lost sight of my spiritual side. I exercised no less than twice a week for my entire life up until last year. Grief and loss can change your life, or it can also reveal something about yourself that you had never known, but that does not mean you stop pursuing your Personal Legend; you should not stop listening to the Soul of the World. It has been about six years since I’ve read The Alchemist; I think enough time and life has passed through that I can read it again for the first time, with renewed purpose, more life experience, and wisdom under my belt to really appreciate and realistically apply the lessons it holds.

Thanks again to all my contributors for sharing their thoughts! Readers: what book would you choose?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Life-changing Literature

There’s a magic in books that they allow us to live someone else’s life, a life that we could never even have dreamed of on our own. As a journalism major in college, I was pushed to that path primarily from reading about the plight of other people’s suffering and hardships. There are some books that have transformed my life. They’ve made me want to be philanthropic and help change someone else’s life for the better.

These are some of the books I’ve read and found to be both humbling and inspirational. It’s amazing to see what others have endured through the resilience of the human spirit.

escapeEscape by Carolyn Jessop
Escape tells the harrowing story of growing up in a cult where women were treated like chattel. But this cult wasn’t far-flung across the world, it existed right in the United States under the guise of religion. Carolyn Jessop was born into the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist branch associated with the Mormon Church.

When Carolyn is eighteen, she is forced into marrying an older man of the community, a man thirty-two years her senior. She is his third wife, and not his last. Over the span of the book, she bears him eight children. And as a new prophet takes over the community with increasingly bizarre and abusive rules, Carolyn starts looking for a way to escape everything she’s ever known, and with the kids.

The Road to Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
This novel takes us across the world to Cambodia, where human-trafficking runs rampant. Plucked from her village in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam is sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she is twelve years old. Held captive in endless seedy brothels, Somaly was tortured and raped, until she finally managed to escape herself. Her strength and courage from the horrors she underwent sparked a fire in her heart to rescue as many children and women in similar situations as she could. But the traffickers put a target on her back for even trying to upset the system.

persepolisPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This graphic novel beautifully illustrates one girl’s growing up in the middle of the Iranian Revolution. As an intelligent and outgoing child, she watched as the freedoms her family had enjoyed were snuffed out as quickly and abruptly as candles. Her daily life morphs to something entirely alien as women are once again draped in swaths of dark fabric and the new regime polices morality. She struggles as her voice is stifled by a new empire. Poignant and heart wrenching as her parents, progressive middle class intellectuals, let their daughter go to Europe, knowing their own country is no longer a safe place to be a girl.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Another book of women struggling to retain rights during the Iranian Revolution, this novel tells the tale of Azar Nafisi’s seven most dedicated students, whom she gathered in her apartment to read the now forbidden Western classics. Prohibited from teaching in a university, Azar let the women cling to literature, to dreams, to hope. While the fundamentalists terrorize the streets outside, the women huddle together to whisper aloud the words of Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, and F Scott Fitzgerald.

childcalleditA Child Called “It” by David Pelzer
This book made me physically nauseous. This is the horrifying memoir of the victim of one of the United States’ most terrible child abuse cases. Growing up in California suburbia, David is inexplicably starved, beaten, and tortured by his mother. She treats her other sons like princes – but David is made to beg for scraps, pass out in an ammonia-filled bathroom, and lay on top of a hot stove. Bearing broken bones, David has to learn to play his mother’s games to survive this horror of a childhood.

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
When Adeline’s father remarries after her mother dies, Adeline and her older siblings become second-class citizens in a house ruled by her stepmother. Adeline, blamed for her mother’s death, bears the brunt of abuse by both her stepmother and older siblings. Made to feel unwanted, often going hungry and physically abused, Adeline still strives to conform to cultural norms and be a good daughter to both of her parents. She excelled in school and won national awards as a teenager, earning passing pats on the head from her father. This book is impossible to read with dry eyes, and you yearn for every heartbroken child in the world as you read Adeline’s story. The pain of a child is universal and bridges all cultures. More is written in her companion novel, Falling Leaves. 

What books have inspired you?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

If I Could Read It Again…

Recently I was thinking about all of the books I’ve been fortunate enough to read, and the wonderful memories I have associated with them (see my post on books and food here). While rereading a book is a lovely way to relive it, there’s nothing quite like reading a book for the first time. The fascination with settings and plots, growing attached to characters whose fates you aren’t quite sure of yet, the awe at stumbling across a quote that strikes you – it’s magic.

So I decided to ask my contributors and friends:

If you could read one book again for the first time, what would it be and why?

theheartisalonelyhunterAfter much consideration I chose The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, the debut novel by Carson McCullers. Reading this book during the summer before ninth grade was an eye-opening experience for me as a writer and reader. At the heart of the novel is John Singer, a calm, mute man who becomes the unlikely confidant of four townspeople. While the narration is third person, the focus shifts between these characters throughout the novel, and I learned how voice and tone can affect a reader’s experience. This was also one of my earliest exposures to Southern Gothic as a genre, and its focus on deeply-flawed, eccentric character has had my heart ever since. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking read, and I would love the chance to read it again for the first time.

Here’s what some of my friends had to say:

harrypotterGabriele: The Harry Potter series – I think it would be amazing to be immersed in the world of Hogwarts again for the very first time. So much of my childhood was changed by JK Rowling’s magic.

princessdiariesSarah: The book I would like to read over again for the first time would be The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. I will always feel like a Mia Thermopolis, awkward and angsty and terrible at math but secretly kind of a princess.

fiftyshadesChristine: If I could read any book again for the first time, I would read Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. I could not put that book down. There were so many twists and mysteries and of course mesmerizing love scenes! It’s the only series I’ve read in its entirety.

houseofleavesJesse: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Not only was it Lovecraftian in its approach to horror, it also was a critique on academia. I was scared and mystified by the experience. Each page unlocked a new story and added a thousand questions on top of the ones I already had.

greatgatsbyGunnar: If I could read a book again for the first time, it would be The Great Gatsby. I know it’s a common book, and most of you read it in high school, but I didn’t graduate from high school. My first encounter with Gatsby was as a Valentine’s Day gift from my girlfriend. It had a lovely little inscription in it. I hope you won’t be offended, darling, but I don’t remember what it said. And I hope you won’t think less of me, reader, but I don’t really feel like looking for the book right now. My bookshelf is a mess.
My first reading was thrilling. I was still making my own cocktails at home then, and picking up the book made me feel like one of its characters: Stylish, and with the appearance of sophistication. I’m a bad reader, and only read the book about a half page at a time, wanting to conjure up that feeling. But that changed when I read Gatsby’s monologue about revisiting the places at which he had made memories with Daisy. Suddenly, I cared very much about Gatsby and his fate, and was compelled to read through the rest of the book as fast as possible. I would welcome the chance to revisit the emotions I felt following his story for the first time, not knowing where his fortune lay.

goodnightmoonJackie: If I could read a book again for the first time, it would be Goodnight Moon (by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd). My daughter loved the book and we would read it often. The first time I read the book to her, I did not know where the mouse was hidden on each page, or even that there was a mouse to be found. It became a ritual to find the hidden mouse each time I turned the page. Surely she must have remembered where he could be found, yet each time he was located, we celebrated. I wonder if we were to pick up the book today…some 20 years later…if we would still remember exactly where he was on each page…or if it would be like reading it for the first time.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to my little Q&A today! And now, readers, it’s your turn: what book would you want to read again for the first time and why?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Reading Food: A Certain Kind of Hunger

I have a memory from high school that still makes my stomach rumble. It is summer, and I am wearing shorts and a tank-top but I am still sweating. I am probably not making it any easier on myself, as I’m sprawled on the couch in the living room; I’ve been there so long that there’s an indent in the cushions. The fabric irritates my skin, but I don’t care: I am devouring a book.

chocolatNot devouring in the literal sense, though I certainly wish I could; I’m reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris, and the beautiful imagery gnaws at my stomach and my brain simultaneously. I can practically smell the heaven that is the chocolaterie. The descriptions of confections dance across the page like sugar plum fairies. I am enchanted.

And oh, my stomach is growling.

Finishing the book in one sitting (there was a time that I could do that, when reading didn’t take a backseat to work), I had the intense desire for chocolate. A melt-in-your-mouth ganache. A pretty truffle. Of course, we had none. I contented myself with slathering a piece of Wonder Bread in Nutella. It was satisfying in the way that fluffy white bread and hazelnut spread can be, but it was gone too soon.

breadandbutterMore recently, I spent the first nice spring days sitting in my backyard reading Michelle Wildgen’s Bread and Butter, a stunning novel about three brothers in the restaurant business. As I read the book, mind racing over what lengths I’d be willing to go to try the steamed pork buns the restaurant staff consumes at their Christmas party (a “savory, rich emulsification of everything meaty in the world“) I had this realization: I really love reading about food.

What is my favorite section of Joyce’s Ulysses? When Leopold Bloom visits Davy Byrne’s pub for a Gorgonzola cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy. What is one image from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that sticks out in my mind? When poor Walter Cunningham drowns his meat and vegetables in syrup. Scout finds the very notion of syrup on vegetables and meat ludicrous, but I wouldn’t knock it…

And what would a food-related post be without mentioning Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast?

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

From a very early age, I loved both reading books and watching cooking shows on television. So yes: I could just love reading about food because I love food. But I would like to think it’s something more than that. Charles Pierre Monselet said “Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.” 

Sensory memories are incredibly strong memories. In basic writing classes, students are told that sensory details help enhance the story for the reader, and that’s true. They may even trigger some of the reader’s own memories. I can still feel the scratchy couch fabric from my afternoon reading Chocolat. I can still taste that squishy Wonder Bread and Nutella sticking to the roof of my mouth – a welcomed respite from my chocolate-less state. Reading about a character’s meal, whether they love it or hate it, helps me connect to them. Reading about Leopold Bloom’s decision to order a simple cheese sandwich brought me closer to him. I think it’s an incredible thing – when words on a page can connect not only with the brain, but with the heart. And the stomach.

There are a plethora of lists online about this, but I’d like to hear from you: what food moments in literature stick out in your mind?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

darkestmindsThis recent trend of dystopian novels set in the United States is slightly alarming, because I half-wonder if it’s the universe foreshadowing some imminent doom for us. But, at least the likes of Divergent, The Hunger Games, and now Alexandra Bracken’s series The Darkest Minds will have us prepared.

I love dystopian novels – they’re a bit of a guilty pleasure, because it seems every YA author is churning one out. But The Darkest Minds is worth the read. The Darkest Minds opens up to modern day America. When Ruby is ten, a girl drops dead in front of her at school. Children all over the country start dying of this mysterious disease – and the lucky survivors are waking up with terrifying, uncontrollable psychic abilities. The country goes into panic and the president sends the nation’s children into what are called rehabilitation camps. Ruby, and the other children (labeled “Psi”s) are segregated based on their brand of psychic ability: pyrokinesis, telekinesis, mind control, electrokinesis, or super intelligence. The children are tortured with a frequency known as ‘calm control’ to keep them passive, and others are tested to find a “cure.”

Now six years later, Ruby is still in the camp, and no one seems to have been “rehabilitated.” She escapes the camp with the help of the extremist Children’s League group. But outside of the camp isn’t any safer. The nation has crumbled to a police state. There are the PSFs, the government police force who are trained to catch children and drag them back to the camps. Bounty hunters known as skip tracers, are hungry for cash and hunt fugitive children. Even other children, who have gone tribal, are an unexpected danger.

Ruby finds herself tagging along with three other camp fugitives. They search for East River, a haven set up by the fabled Skip Kid. Like the Wizard of Oz, the Skip Kid is promised to be able to give them everything they want. A way back to their parents. Safety. A new home. But Ruby has a secret, a guilty burden eating away at her. And it makes her more dangerous than the PSF and bounty hunters chasing them.

Bracken makes the story spark by fleshing out all of her characters, even the truly ugly bits. The children are often more adult than the actual grown-ups, who in turn act like the monsters that they consider the children to be. The children each bear the unique scars of their traumas. Some are stronger for it. Some are irreparably broken. Some are malevolent and eager to hurt back. All of them are survivors of a situation that was beyond their control.

Ruby’s internal struggle with her secret is just as tumultuous as the world she’s trying to survive in. From the beginning, we can only guess at what her secret is through her harried thoughts. Like a frightened, hunted deer, she often seems unable to think in a straight line  – her memory seems to fight remembering what she’s done in her past. She’s no Katniss or Tris Prior. She is clearly scared, and for much of the novel, afraid of her own powers. She went into the rehabilitation camp when she was ten, and many times, she still seems to be a ten-year-old child, surviving in a teen’s body.

Her companions each have compelling stories and flaws of their own that are revealed throughout their journey. The ugly world they escaped into seems to offer no respite. They hide in Walmarts, live off of Twinkies and candy bars filched from gas stations, and have to stay safe by using the powers that they abhor – what made them freaks. Many times I found myself genuinely frightened for Ruby and her companions. I had to pause to build up confidence to keep turning the pages.

Luckily, I still have more to read of Ruby’s plight. Though as of now, there doesn’t seem to be a pollyanna ending in sight for the psychic children, or the country. I’m eager to see what Bracken has in store for this dystopian future. The Darkest Minds is followed by In Time, a short story, that connects it to the second novel, Never Fade. The final chapter, In the Afterlight, is due out this September. I know I’ll be reading it as soon as it’s released!

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

What’s Don Draper Reading?

Image courtesy of AMC

One fateful day in our sophomore year of college, the lovely Danielle and I binge-watched the first several seasons of Mad Men. We fell in love with the crisp fashions, the drink trolleys in every office, and the antiquated social values. We teased our hair and put on our closest approximations to 1960s fashions that we could find in our tiny dorm closets. We wished for the effortless poise of Betty Draper. The sass and confidence of Joan Holloway. The stubborn optimism of Trudy Campbell. And of course, we wanted their outfits. We had Mad Men parties where we tried to carefully recreate the Old Fashioned and the gimlet. A proper Maddict, after all, had to imbibe properly.

April 13th marked the beginning of Mad Men’s final season, set in 1969. I’m going to miss it; here’s hoping for a 70s spin-off series about Sally Draper, Don’s cheeky daughter. But even without a time machine to take us back to the groovy 1960s, we can hold onto the world of Don Draper a little longer. Through books, of course!

What books lined the shelves of our favorite characters? Mad Men’s producers are careful to craft a perfect representation of the 1960s through the set, the costumes, even the foods that the characters eat. Some of the books featured on the show are titles from the best sellers list for the 1960s – we see Sally Draper reading Rosemary’s Baby, which was a bestseller in 1967. Others are classics, and some aren’t truly literary at all. Don Draper studies a copy of The Berlitz Self-Teacher: French, a smart choice when your wife’s parents are possibly (probably) talking about you in French behind your back.

This list is to provide a snapshot of some of the books our favorite advertising exec reads, and to provide a walk down memory lane, before we bid Mad Men a sad farewell.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
During the first season, Bert Cooper suggests that Don read this book. The 1957 classic takes the reader through a dystopian United States, where society begins to fall apart when the capitalistic leaders abandon their work and industries. For the first season of a show that superficially revolves around an advertising company and the American dream, the novel is an appropriate choice. It roars the merits of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the book was received with much negative attention, criticized as romanticizing greed.

Many other parallels exist between Mad Men and Atlas Shrugged. Mad Men’s first season also mirrors the novel’s opening line “Who is John Galt?” with its own question – “Who is Don Draper?” In the first season, we learn the secrets of Don Draper, who is more a creation, than a man. But even when his beginnings are revealed to us, this seems to be a question that echoes across the entire series. Who, really, is Don Draper?

Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara
This collection of poems is read by Don in the opening episode of the second season. We hear Don Draper read aloud “Mayakovsky”  at the end of an episode where he’s struggling to find his real identity. Is it as the Manhattan advertising hero? The mysterious lover with the many paramours? The suburban dad, playing with his children and walking the dog? The question of who Don Draper is surfaces again. He mails the book to an unknown recipient with the note “Made me think of you.” In the final episode of the season, we find that he mailed the book to Anna Draper, who is the only person who knew both the real Don Draper and Dick Whitman. She is arguably, at this point in the series, the only person he doesn’t have to question his identity around. Like the poem, we are left wondering as the season ends what it will take for Don to be himself again. Whoever that may be.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré
Don Draper’s interest in this novel isn’t surprising. He is a man who lives his life based on one lie after another; it’s no wonder he’d be drawn to a Cold War spy novel about espionage and secret intelligence. The book came out in 1963 with much critical acclaim. A review in Time magazine stated the book was “a sad, sympathetic portrait of a man who has lived by lies and subterfuge for so long, he’s forgotten how to tell the truth.” Sound like someone we know?

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Another one from season two. Don Draper picks this up from the fingers of his latest lover whom he meets during a business trip to LA. This novel explores the struggle of the Compson family – former Southern aristocrats who face financial ruin. Throughout the novel, their family reputation crumbles and many of them die in tragic ways. This follows another theme of the show: the spiritual emptiness of money and fame. The novel’s title alludes to Macbeth’s famous soliloquy, and this too could relate to Don’s identity conflict of season two:

“It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing”

The Inferno by Dante
This is far from a beach read, but we can’t expect anything less of Don Draper, who’s seen reading it during the opening episode of season six. He’s not likely to flip through a light, sappy romance novel. Instead, his read while on vacation in Hawaii is Dante’s allegorical journey through hell and the nine circles of suffering. The significance of this selection shouldn’t be lost on the readers. During the show’s penultimate season, Don himself seems to be stuck going through each of the circles.There is another level of meaning here. Dante wrote his Divine Comedy as a critique of the corruption in the church and government around him. We can see this as calling out the corruption in Don’s world reaching a boiling point.

So now my book list gets ever longer! The New York Public Library has a full list of all books that make appearances on Mad Men here . Personally, I think I want to read Sterling’s Gold, before anything else. Who wouldn’t want to read the fictitious memoir of Roger Sterling, full of all his wise quips (Okay, wiseass quips)? For even more inspiration of what your favorite character would read, check out the best sellers list for the 1960s. Happy reading, fellow Maddicts!

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

I received an ARC of Roomies from NetGalley last October, but I wanted to share my thoughts on this book now, as high school students are finishing up their senior year and gearing up for college.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they’ve never met.

Roomies is a sweet coming-of-age story of two girls who, though seemingly an unlikely pair , become close through email. Ah, the beauty of the digital age! When Elizabeth and Lauren are paired as freshman college roommates for the upcoming school year, they have the summer to come to grips with the changes in their life. And while they begin to learn things about each other through email, the virtual form of communication lends to a lot of slip-ups and misunderstandings. Can Elizabeth and Lauren come to terms with their rooming assignment – or should they both request a single?

Roomies is well-written, funny, and incredibly sharp. The narration is authentic for two teenage girls faced with the difficulties of being teenage girls (family, relationship drama, and friendships make the top of the list). I enjoyed that the narration was split evenly between Elizabeth and Lauren, and I felt that their narratives paired nicely together.

The supporting characters and romantic subplots were enjoyable and pleasant to read about, but I do think the heart of this story lies in Elizabeth and Lauren’s blossoming friendship and the idea of growing into oneself.

I’ve been out of college for over a year now (Gah! Don’t remind me!), but I still related to the problems the main characters faced. I still remember the excitement, and the nervousness, and the feeling that anything is possible. As graduation approaches, I think this would make a great read for the soon-to-be collegiate in your life.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.